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July 13, 2023

Pakistani Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani to receive ABA human rights award

WASHINGTON, July 13, 2023 — The American Bar Association announced that it will honor Tassaduq Hussain Jillani, former chief justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, with its 2023 ABA International Human Rights Award in recognition of his courageous judgments against political impunity in a time of crisis and for defending judicial independence.

The award will be presented during a dinner on Aug. 5 at the ABA Annual Meeting in Denver.

The International Human Rights Award was established to honor and give public recognition to a lawyer, human rights luminary or international human rights organization that has made an exceptional contribution to the advancement of human rights outside of the United States. The award is given on behalf of the ABA Center for Human Rights, Section of International Law, Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice, Section of Litigation and Rule of Law Initiative.

Jillani took important and unprecedented measures to safeguard the rights of religious minorities, as defined in the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, by issuing a ruling known as the Judgment on Minority Rights in 2014, which not only detailed the scope of the fundamental right to freedom of religion available to all religious minorities in the country but also outlined a strategy through which these rights may be fully realized in the Pakistani context.

The judgment not only resolves the thorny question of a potential conflict between Islamic and democratic ideals but also provides a way forward for a country that is committed to upholding Islamic values but can still provide a voice to its marginalized communities. Jillani has followed a philosophy that superior courts and particularly the Supreme Court, through their judgments, make an important contribution to eliminating discrimination and bias in society and thereby promote tolerance and co-existence, which are critical elements of any democracy.

Jillani also penned a song – “Justice for All!” – which is known as the Judicial Anthem of Pakistan. It  encapsulates the spirit of the judgment on minority rights and his vision for a pluralistic society. It lauds the legal profession as a noble calling and not merely a trade and cautions the nation that if the values of brotherhood and Islamic plurality on which the country was founded are abandoned, the country and its citizens will bear a heavy cost.

“The committee carefully considered a number of well-qualified nominees, and the decision was difficult,” said Mark D. Agrast, the chair of the selection committee for the 2023 ABA International Human Rights Award. “Ultimately, we reached a unanimous decision to present the award to Tassaduq Hussain Jillani, the former chief justice of Pakistan, in recognition of his courageous defense of judicial independence, religious freedom and the rule of law."

The 2023 ABA Annual Meeting will be held August 2-8 at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver.

The ABA is the largest voluntary association of lawyers in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law.